Part of thinking Orange is recognizing that parents are the primary spiritual leaders of their children and the church's job is to partner with them and help them thrive in that role. Anyone who has been around the church long enough knows that the family's influence will trump the church's influence 8-9 times out of 10, for good or for ill. The importance of fathers in church and how that affects their families is massive, apparently.
Something I read recently that shocked me, despite knowing what I just mentioned, was how important the father's influence is on children's faith. What I read was this:
“If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular).” Source – Touch Stone Mag
Now, a couple of things need to be said about this study:
- The study was done in 1994 in Switzerland. So, not only is it dated it's also from a totally different context that I know very little about.
- It's based on a survey that I couldn't find so I have no way of knowing exactly how the questions were phrased.
- It doesn't address, as best I can tell, the effects of not having a dad around at all. Is the mom's influence greater in those cases?
My hunch is that the results probably wouldn't be very different here in America. That's sobering to think about.
I grew up attending church with my mom and sister. My dad almost never came. Something else the article mentions that I think is true is that “Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates that going to church is not really a ‘grown-up' activity.” I may have thought that at times but at some point Jesus, and by extension, the Church, became real and important to me. From my experience, I can't say the statistic of 1 in 50 would be accurate, but even if it's MUCH better and it's 1 in 10, a 10% chance is not very good.
Here are my gut reactions in light of this information:
- We need to reach dads. I might start by reading Why Men Hate Going to Church (affiliate link).
- We need to assume every kid will be the 1 in 50 if their dad is not involved. Don't have a negative outlook.
- We still need to think about how to serve single moms well.
What do you think? Does this seem accurate? What's your experience? What can we do?